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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kindergarten begins

I'm not sure who was most anxious this morning for Carolyn to start school.  I had a horrible time sleeping last night and James was up at 6:15.  Carolyn got up just before 7.  I made her a special breakfast of strawberry soufflĂ©, which Carolyn put cheese on top of and had a glass of milk.  She took a banana as a snack.  Jon stayed home to put her on the bus, which was tougher than we anticipated.  We took many pictures and had to fight back tears.  She was just fine though and climbed onto the bus and sat right down.

While Carolyn was at school, I had time with James.  One of Carolyn's classmates came and played with him for a little while, allowing me time to put together a few more folders for preschool.  Once she left he asked to work on preschool right away, so we got down to work.  He can identify nearly every letter of his name and order them correctly.  We put together a 10 commandments train and then worked on some of his sequencing pages.  Once he reaches capacity for that, we gathered up all the pillows in the house and he crawled over them.  Then he made new patterns and crawled, jumped, and flopped around the room.  We were silly, pretending to hide from a monster, and just enjoyed our time together.  We went outside so he could pick berries to leave out for the birds.  And we read a book before heading to the bus stop.

James gave Carolyn a huge hug once she was off the bus and told her he missed her.  It was really cool to see.  We hurried inside since it was raining and went straight to make lunch.  As I was making lunch, Carolyn suddenly got upset.  Then she told me something "horrible" happened at school.  She had trouble finding the correct line to get into to go inside.  We talked about this for a few minutes and discussed how tomorrow if she has trouble she can look for some of her classmates.  It sounds like they didn't do much today, but she did get to meet the class guinea pigs named Cookie and Brownie.  So day 1 is over and she'll meet everyone in her class tomorrow. 

My little girl is getting big!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Overcoming Perfectionism

We noticed when Carolyn was very young that she had a tendency towards perfectionism.  She doesn't want to try new things and is constantly nervous that she's going to get something wrong.  We often think that the reason she didn't speak until 18 months was she was afraid to say something improperly.  Where did this come from?  We really don't know, and I don't think it could be learned at such a young age. 

I read a book this past week with ideas for how to help your child overcome these tendencies and a big part of it is to identify an perfectionist tendencies in yourself.  I've never considered myself a perfectionist.  Yes, if I'm going to do something I think it should (needs to) be done well.  But since reading this book I've been keeping an eye on my own actions to see if I am forcing any perfectionist ways onto the children.

Lo and behold, we set out to make cheese crackers this last Friday and I found myself needing to hold back.  I let the kids help with grating the cheese, although they struggled to do it very well.  I used the mixer to put everything together.  And then we started to form the crackers.  To avoid the mess of last time, we decided to just make balls.  They should all be similar in size and smooth balls, in my mind.  But allow a 3 and 5yo to participate and they will not come out that way.  I had to resist picking them up and rolling the balls just a touch more to be smooth.  After all, lumpiness wasn't going to affect the final taste.  I let the kids just put their work down on the pan, moving them only to assure they didn't bake together.  When Carolyn decided to move on to cheese sticks, we had some issues with the appropriate thickness and I did step in to assure they were thin enough to cook properly.  But in the end, the kids got in some great fine motor work and we have a wonderful finished product that is very yummy and healthy.

I will keep watching for my own innate perfectionist ways.  It can be hard with kids this age to not correct mistakes, since I like to use them as learning opportunities.  But I did learn from the book how to word my responses to their accomplishments to diminish the drive toward perfectionism.  I think this was a useful book to read just before Carolyn starts kindergarten.  I hope that by carefully crafting my responses I can diminish Carolyn's drive towards perfection and foster a new desire to try new things.  I encourage anyone reading this with small children to take a look at themselves and see if you are conveying hidden perfectionist messages toward your child.  There's enough competition in this world, let's make sure we are showing our children that as long as they try their best, it's good enough for us.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer 2013 is ending

It's been a long time since I've written, and quite a busy summer!  We started the summer with painting the kids' bedrooms.  After finishing those, we headed to Blue Harbor for 3 nights with Jon's parents for vacation.  It was pretty nice and fairly relaxing.  The kids had a blast at the waterpark.  When we got home we continued to paint the rest of the house - master bedroom, living room, kitchen, and playroom/hallway.  It feels really nice to have the house feel more like ours.  There's still a long list of changes we'd like to make, but finances will determine that as we go forward.  We're growing some tomato plants out front, which are huge.  We went to some sporting events, played at parks, and just enjoyed being together as a family.

The last 2 weeks Carolyn attended Safety City through the park district.  It's a program my mom was part of starting and teaching when I was little.  Carolyn had a lot of fun and enjoyed telling us all the new things she learned each day about how to be safe.  I let the staff know today who my mom was, and almost cried as the director remembered her.  I miss my mom a lot, but having the kids get to experience some of the things she helped create makes it a little easier.  Carolyn did an awesome job at camp and her teacher was amazed that this was her first drop-off experience.  Bodes very well for starting kindergarten.  They even took a field trip on a school bus, so that won't be a foreign idea for her.

Jon started his new job this week with new staff training.  He seems to really be enjoying himself and those around him are very nice.  He has a great big office and we're discovering some nice perks along the way.  We got free microsoft office for our new desktop computer.  And the insurance, although we're selecting the HMO, is about $200/month cheaper than his old school.  Looking forward to seeing his new paycheck at the end of the month.

I have been given a raise, which means I don't have to work as many hours this school year.  I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time with the kids and not tied to my computer.  They're also starting a 401k matching program.  It's the typical 50% of your contributions up to 6%.  So I'm putting in 7% to end up with 10% in there.  If Jon switches his stuff away from fidelity, I might do the same and move all my stuff to CharlesSchwabb.  But we'll what happens.  The guy he was using wasn't very helpful and rarely, if ever, actually responds to our inquiries.  It took him over a month when I wanted to increase contributions... you'd think he'd be right on that.

Carolyn starts school in 10 days.  I still have mixed feelings about whether public school is the best option for her.  Everyone that sees/hears her read is amazed.  Whenever we use any of the online tests she ends up at a 4th grade level.  We continue to work on her math and that I would put about half way through 1st grade.  We've spent less time on it, so she isn't as far as I think she could be.  I'm going to give this a whole hearted attempt though, and we'll see how it goes.  I'm hoping that the Ipads will provide her with the opportunity to excel beyond her grade level.  I looked over the curriculum last night and she has every item listed mastered.  There are 3-4 things not yet mastered for 1st grade only.  And those are things we haven't spent much time with - clock reading, money counting, numbers beyond 100, and parts of a sentence.  So we'll definitely work on those in the next couple months and then start tackling the 2nd grade curriculum which does have more for her to work on.

James is really enjoying the preschool work we've been doing.  We're through the first 7 weeks and will start on week 8 soon.  He likes how varied it is and I think he enjoys that he gets to sit in my lap for a lot of it.  He can sing his alphabet, count to 10, identify all the standard colors, and knows his shapes (square, triangle, rectangle, circle).  We're working on identifying the letters and numbers, of which he does know a few.  So he's trucking right along.  I'm interested to see where he is just before entering kindergarten himself.  I'm looking forward to spending time with just him when we don't have to go anywhere as well.  He starts soccer in September and then story hour isn't until October.  I figure we'll still go to the library once a week though.

I'm looking forward to enjoying this next week with just the 2 of them.  We don't have a ton planned and that is going to be nice.  Tomorrow we have no plans and will just enjoy time as a family, since from here Saturdays will likely involve grocery shopping.